Exit poll: Most Ohio voters still strongly favor legal abortion

Julie Carr Smyth/AP

Signs for and against Ohio’s abortion-related ballot measure are seen in front of the Greene County Board of Elections in Xenia on Oct. 11, 2023.


An electorate fueled by continued dissatisfaction with the overturning of Roe v. Wade last year turned out to help enshrine reproductive rights in Ohio’s state constitution, according to the first results of CNN’s Ohio exit poll.

CNN projects the ballot measure, Issue 1, will pass, preventing the Buckeye State from restricting access to abortion before fetal viability, which doctors believe is about 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy. After viability, the state will be able to restrict access to abortion unless the patient’s life or health is in danger.

A year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Ohio voters who went to the polls Tuesday are still feeling the sting.

About 6 in 10 expressed negative feelings about the court’s decision, including about 4 in 10 who called themselves outright angry about it — nearly identical to the sentiment among Ohio midterm voters last year. In contrast, fewer than 20% of Ohio voters this year said they were excited about the 2022 decision.

Across the political landscape, support for Question 1 (indicated by a “yes” vote) was nearly universal among Democrats and self-described liberal voters, with nearly 70% of self-described moderates and more than 6 in 10 political independents also voting no up on the initiative. They were joined by a significant minority of Republicans, with nearly 1 in 5 GOP voters backing “yes.” Nearly 6 in 10 parents of children under 18 voted in favor of the abortion rights initiative, as did a small majority of suburban women.

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Ohio voters under 30 turned out at least as much in this year’s election as they did in last year’s midterm elections. More than three-quarters of them voted “yes,” as did about two-thirds of those voters ages 30 to 44 and about half of those 45 and older. (Voters younger than 30 even more broadly supported another ballot measure in Ohio to legalize recreational marijuana, exit polls show. CNN projects the measure, Version 2, also passed.)

While support for Issue 1 was somewhat broader among female than male voters, race and education also served as dividing lines. About 80% of voters of color supported the abortion rights initiative, as did about 63% of white female voters with a college degree and nearly 6 in 10 white male college graduates. In contrast, white women without college degrees were roughly equally distributed. White men without college degrees were among the relatively few demographic groups that voted solidly “no” to the initiative.

About a 6-in-10 majority of Ohio voters this year said abortion should be legal in most or all cases. About 96% who said abortion should always be legal voted to write abortion rights into the constitution, while about 95% who said abortion should be mostly or always illegal voted against the initiative. Voters who said abortion should be legal in most, but not all, cases supported Issue 1 by a slightly less overwhelming majority of about 83%.

Notably, Ohio voters’ broad support for legalized abortion does not translate into similarly broad support for the Democratic Party’s handling of the issue. Voters only trust Democrats over the GOP by a relatively modest single-digit margin on abortion.

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In contrast, voters in Ohio give the GOP the edge when it comes to which party they trust to handle the economy. Just under a quarter of voters said their family’s financial situation has improved over the past three years, with about 4 in 10 saying things have gotten worse and the rest saying they’ve stayed the same.

Only about 4 in 10 Ohio voters approve of President Joe Biden’s job performance, matching his ranking among voters in the 2022 midterms. Only about a quarter of voters said they think Biden should run for president again. But former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination, is doing a little better: Only about a third of this Ohio electorate thinks he should run to win back the White House. Trump carried Ohio by 8 points in both the 2016 and 2020 elections.

The Ohio CNN Exit Poll is a combination of in-person interviews with Election Day voters and early voters along with telephone and online polls that gauge the views of mail-in absentee and early voters. It was conducted by Edison Research on behalf of the National Election Pool. Election Day in-person interviews were conducted at a random sample of 35 Ohio polling locations among 668 Election Day voters and at a random sample of 10 early voting locations among 1,188 early voters. The results also include 842 interviews with early and absentee voters conducted by telephone, online or via SMS. Results for the entire sample have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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